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THE SPECKLED AXE.
amendment, in order to get rid of the struggle and rescue his self-esteem from mortification at being no better able to control his habits in this particular direction. To exemplify his feelings, in regard to this matter, he relates an anecdote to the following effect.
A man having bought an axe of a blacksmith, wished him to make the whole surface of the axe as bright as the bit. This the smith was ready to do, if the man would turn the grindstone by which alone his wish could be gratified. The man began to turn, and the smith to grind, pressing the broad face of the axe, with all the force of his strong arms, against the biting stone. The man pretty soon beginning to feel a lively curiosity to see, from time to time, how the brightening proceeded, kept quitting the crank to look at the axe, and at length concluded to take it as it was. “No, no," said the smith,
turn on, turn on; we shall have the whole axe bright by-and-by; as yet it is only speckled.”
Yes,” said the man,
“ but I think I like a speckled axe best.” And so
as the anecdote is applied - 80 it is with many a person, who undertakes to reform his habits and burnish his character. Surprised at the difficulty of the task, he soon gives it up, concluding that “a speckled axe is best ;' and in a vein of pithy irony, Franklin shows, from his own experience, how ready self-indulgence is to find excuses, by remarking that “something that pretended to be reason, kept suggesting that extreme nicety might be a kind of foppery in morals, and provoke ridicule; that a perfect character might incur the inconvenience of being envied and hated ; and that a benevolent man should allow some faults in himself, to keep his neighbors in countenance."
But still, though Franklin found himself unable to reach that high point of Order, which he had been so ambitious to attain, yet, as he avers, his endeavors in
that direction, contributed to render him a better and happier man, than he would have been, had he not made those endeavors. To his own account of his efforts at self-improvement, and of the somewhat artificial plan upon which he pursued his object, he has annexed the following impressive remarks :
“ It may be well,” says he, “that my posterity should be informed that to this little artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor owed the constant felicity of his life, down to his 79th year, in which this is written. What reverses may attend the remainder, is in the hand of Providence; but if they arrive, the reflection on past happiness enjoyed, ought to help him bear them with resignation. To Temperance he ascribes his long-continued health, and what is still left to him of a good constitution; to Industry and Frugality, the early easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, with all that knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some degree of reputation among the learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the confidence of his country and the honorable employs it conferred
upon him; and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect state he was able to acquire them, all that evenness of temper, and cheerfulness in conversation, which make his company still sought for, and agreeable even to his young acquaintI hope that some of my
follow the example, and reap the benefit."
It was Franklin's original design to extend the little tabular book described, by adding a commentary on each of the virtues in the list, more fully to explain its positive advantages, as well as the certain disadvantages of the correlative vices; and thus to furnish, for the use of others, especially the young, a manual, which, inasmuch as it was to point out the practical methods of
THE ART OF VIRTUE.
forming habits of virtue, and not be simply preceptive, or speculative, was to be entitled “The Art of Virtue.” With this purpose in view he collected a considerable mass of materials in the form of hints and remarks, made from time to time, in the course of his reading and observation; but the increase of business, and his accumulating engagements in the most important public affairs, prevented the execution of the intended commentary.
The contemplated manual was, moreover, connected, in Franklin's mind, with another and far more comprehensive plan he had conceived for carrying into wider effect his views of moral culture, through the instrumentality of an association, to be regularly organized and to act on society at large. But as this chapter has already exceeded the usual limit, we must defer to the next, the account, which it is deemed necessary to give of what he styles the “great and extensive project” referred to.
PROJECT FOR PROMOTING VIRTUE-ALMANAC OF RICHARD
From what has already been said it is plain that Franklin's mind, at this period of his life, had become deeply impressed with the duty and advantage of selfdiscipline; of directing his thoughts and efforts to worthy ends ; and of training his faculties, both intellectual and moral, to the attainment of those ends by just and beneficent means; such means as should reconcile and harmonize his own interests with the interests of his fellow-men, and present a genuine exemplification of the doctrine that “ true self love and social, are the same;" or, as the same doctrine had long before been announced, on the very highest authority, in the golden rule requiring every one of us to “ do unto others as we would have others to do unto us." He believed this to be the only way to secure any real happiness, and that no qualities are so likely to advance a poor man's fortune in the world, as veracity and integrity.
That he strove, with unfeigned earnestness, to correct his faults and train himself to the habitual practice of virtue, is evident, not only from the general tenor of his life and the personal respect in which he was held, but is particularly and beautifully evinced by his candor and docility in receiving admonition, of which the following anecdote presents a good example. His list of virtues, as he relates, contained at first but twelve. A Quaker
HIS DEFERENTIAL MANNER IN CONVERSATION.
friend of his frankly told him one day, that he was generally considered proud, and in conversation sometimes overbearing and insolent, several instances of which were called to Franklin's remembrance. He acknowledged the justice of the admonition, and added Humility to the list of virtues, to be particularly cultivated. He confesses that unremitting watchfulness was at first necessary, to break the offending habit, especially when engaged in animated discussion; yet perseverance was at length crowned with success; and then he found “the advantage of this change in his manners.” It not only made intercourse at all times more agreeable, but it procured " a readier reception of his opinions, when right, and less mortification, when wrong."
There is, indeed, no one point in manners and general deportment, which he has so frequently urged, as the language and tone of unassuming deference, in conversation, and in reasoning with others for the purpose of changing their opinions, or procuring their co-operation. To this deferential manner, connected with the prevalent confidence in his integrity, he expressly ascribes his influence with his fellow-citizens, and in deliberative assemblies; for he was, as he declares, but a “bad speaker, hesitating in his choice of words, and never eloquent;' and yet he "generally carried his point.”
The good sense of these remarks is obvious; but his modesty, nevertheless, has suppressed one reason quite as efficient as any, in procuring him influence, and a ready adoption of his views; and that reason was to be found in the sound judgment and sagacious forethought by which his views were usually distinguished.
But Franklin's desires, on the great subject of moral improvement, were not limited to his own personal benefit and that of the individuals immediately connected with him, or of the single community in which his lot